(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. committed $1.4 billion to its Housing Equity Fund, extending a push to back affordable housing in the Seattle, Nashville and Washington metro areas.

The funds will be used to create 14,000 affordable units in those locales, the company said Tuesday in a blog post, and brings Amazon’s total housing pledge to $3.6 billion.

The company in 2021 earmarked some $2 billion for low-interest loans and grants, joining tech industry peers in an effort to help make housing more affordable, particularly in the expensive West Coast cities where they’re based. Critics had long accused Amazon and other tech giants — including Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc., Meta Platforms Inc. and Microsoft Corp. — of exacerbating regional housing shortages by bringing in highly paid engineers able to outbid the locals. 

“We know housing is a really big challenge for a lot of people, especially in and around expensive metro areas,” Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy said during a press conference at a historic former Seattle hospital that was once Amazon’s headquarters. “We feel strongly that we can help give back to our communities by helping to preserve and create thousands of affordable homes.”

Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund initially aimed to preserve and create rental housing in the Seattle area, Arlington, Virginia, and Nashville, before expanding to homeownership efforts last year. The company has also used the fund to burnish its reputation in hometown Seattle, touting the program in video ads and fliers mailed to residents.

The e-commerce giant has focused on units for families earning 30% to 80% of each area’s median income, pitching it as a way to help those who don’t qualify for existing subsidies and can’t afford the escalating cost of housing. Critics of the approach say Amazon should do more to address the needs of the poorest residents. 

Amazon has helped nonprofit groups buy existing apartment complexes and reserve them for low-income families, which is more affordable than building housing from scratch, said Jenny Schuetz, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, who has studied the housing market for more than 20 years.

It can cost $1 million to build a single affordable unit in expensive markets, she said, so even big pledges can be quickly depleted.

“That’s a huge amount of money, and we need every dollar we can get,” Sarah Saadian, senior vice president of policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said of Amazon’s latest pledge. “But the federal government can’t rely on corporate philanthropy to solve this problem.”

(Updates with CEO comment in fourth paragraph.)

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